Good gaming laptops under $500 are currently pretty rare. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for a $500 laptop with some 3D capabilities for a game here and there, but there just aren’t really good options under $500 almost never now (it was actually better few years ago). Some models with the Nvidia MX150 GPU are selling for around $550-$600 (please check the $600 listings). I would recommend either going with a used/refurbished laptop from previous generations, like the quite old Dell 7559 (used).
Also, I would advise not getting models with the old AMD A10/A12/FX CPUs (like the FX-9800P), as they are vastly limited in TDP and performance is considerably lower compared to the new stuff or Intel CPUs. The bottom line 3D performance won’t be much better or any better than old generations Intel I5 laptops.
I would suggest waiting for serious competition from AMD’s new chips, like the Ryzen 2200U and 2300U which should be available in cheaper machines, but delivering better 3D performance. Seems like offerings will remains quite limited. We are on the verge of next generation AMD CPUs anyway. The interesting parts, the AMD Ryzen 2300U is not available for a reasonable price.
The situation is quite annoying. For those who like to keep it under 500 no matter what, I would recommend asking here in the comments or posting a question over the forums, and we’ll find something. But, for those who are willing to shell a little more, refurbished models (like the HP 15t) for $550-$600 are available in the $600 listing (linked above).
Still no in-depth reviews, but the Acer A315-41 is the first model in the US to be equipped with the AMD Ryzen 2500U APU, integrating the AMD Vega 8. 512 stream processors. For a $400-$500 laptop, this is a bump up in 3D performance.
As a comparison, the 2500U integrated Vega 8 rivaling the Nvidia GT 940MX performance level, and that’s only because the 2500U is TDP limited (15W).
As a bottom line, I would suggest keeping an eye for reviews and discounts. Although $500 is a good price for this performance level right now, other matters remain – display quality, HDD speed, keyboard and more. It might be worth it to shell another $100 for an MX150 model with an IPS and SSD.
Lenovo Thinkpad E485 is Lenovos’ low end business class laptop, based on the AMD Ryzen APUs (CPU + GPU). Purchased from Lenovos’ site, it is configurable.
Recommended configuration: I would not recommend going with the Ryzen 2700U as it is too TDP limited. The Ryzen 5 2500U or 2200U are sufficient for general use. Upgrade the RAM to 8 or 12GB (12GB is more cost effective and also useful) and the display to 1920×1080 IPS.
There are no good in-depth reviews, but a review of the Intel based E480 shows mediocre IPS display in terms of colors coverage and maximal brightness, but good contrast.
Keyboard is of higher quality but not backlit. Noise levels are low. The Intel version has a good battery running times but it’s unclear what is the situation in the AMD front.
Bottom line, for $400-$500 (configuration dependent), the E485 does provide good performance and some business class features (a good keyboard is not common!) and the AMD version adds to that a better 3D performance.
Saying that, you should remember that for $600 gaming performance is much higher, if that’s what you are after.